Graded on a Curve:
Tame Impala,
The Slow Rush

So who’s the bright idiot who labeled Tame Impala a psychedelic rock band? You might as well say Carole King plays hair metal. My pal Martijn De Vries comes closer to the truth when he describes Tame Impala’s music as ambient disco.

Call Tame Impala (aka Australian Kevin Parker) what you will, the band is performing an important social service by bringing indie rock to a new audience. My girlfriend’s son, whose tastes in music run to Kanye West and Travis Scott, owns a Tame Impala t-shirt. It’s an ungodly awful looking t-shirt, but that’s another matter. The important thing is that Tame Impala could be a gateway drug to the harder stuff like Brian Jonestown Massacre and Sunn O))). And that can only be good for us as a culture.

On Tame Impala’s 2020 LP The Slow Rush, Parker lays his silky smooth and positively content free vocals over low intensity dance beats and the occasional soul groove. Parker has the rhythm down but doesn’t bring the noise, which he makes up for by adding enough sound effects to keep things interesting. No wonder the kids are going for it. You can dance to it. You can smoke pot or do your homework to it. Plus it ups your chances of getting laid by exactly six percentage points. Those six points may not sound like much, but they could just get you over the finish line.

And I’m betting parents like Tame Impala too. You’ll hear no misogyny or gynecological discussions of sex, and for the most part Tame Impala’s music is more relaxing than the stuff today’s young people are shoving up their ears. Listening to Tame Impala also gives parents the opportunity to fuck with their kids’ heads. Every time I try to turn my girlfriend’s son on to the Beastie Boys he looks at me like I’m an extra from Jurassic Park. But when I turn on Tame Impala a doubt runs through his teenage head. If an embalmed Velociraptor like me enjoys listening to Tame Impala, how hip can he really be?

The Slow Rush isn’t an all-disco affair, but you might think so after listening to songs like “Breathe Deeper,” “Borderline” (ring a bell?), “Is It True,” “Glimmer,” and “Lost in Yesterday.” Many of the remaining tracks barely skirt the glitterball. The organ and yacht rock groove that open “It Might Be True” kick into what is probably the loudest couple of minutes on the album. The take it easy piano and electronic sound effects on “On Track” precede big drum crashes that go off like grenades, after which it’s safe to climb out of your foxhole and boogie. The formula (ballad interrupted by percussion explosions) is repeated on “One More Time.”

Big hits on The Slow Rush are “Instant Destiny” and “Posthumous Forgiveness.” “Instant Destiny” is lush, catchy and as close as Tame Impala comes to psychedelic rock on The Slow Rush. You can dance to it but it sounds just as good with the headphones on. The latter song brings Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” to mind, but it isn’t one-tenth as soulful. Still, you can’t deny the song holds on and won’t let go.

Psychedelic or not, The Slow Rush is a solid but unexciting affair, and if you’re looking for an adventure in hi-fi I recommend you look elsewhere. Parker’s music is far from lame but that “tame” is all too appropriate. The impala is a dangerous animal, but this one belongs in a petting zoo. Unlike most contemporary hip-hop artists Parker has nothing to say, and his beats aren’t big enough to shake the dance floor. But if Tame Impala don’t thrill me, The Slow Rush makes for a pleasant listen, and the kids like it. And the kids are alright.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B

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